Read The Dig: A Taskforce Story Online

Authors: Brad Taylor

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The Dig: A Taskforce Story

BOOK: The Dig: A Taskforce Story
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Also by Brad Taylor

One Rough Man

All Necessary Force

Enemy of Mine

The Widow’s Strike

The Polaris Protocol

Other Taskforce Stories

The Callsign

Gut Instinct

Black Flag

The Dig

A Taskforce Story, Featuring an Exclusive Excerpt from
Days of Rage

Brad Taylor

DUTTON 1852

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

Copyright © 2014 by Brad Taylor

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

eBook ISBN 978-1-101-60566-0

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Contents

Also by Brad Taylor

Title Page

Copyright

Dear Reader

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Excerpt from
Days of Rage

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

About the Author

Dear Reader,

Pike and Jennifer’s company, Grolier Recovery Services, was started with the seed money from the expedition to find the Mayan temple showcased in
One Rough Man
. I toyed with the idea of writing about that experience, since it happened off the page. In the end, I thought it would be more fun to explore Pike trying to convince Jennifer to start up the company in the first place, since that happened off the page as well.
The Dig
is that story, and it sits between
One Rough Man
and
All Necessary Force
in the Pike Logan universe. Hope you enjoy!

Best regards,

Brad Taylor

Chapter 1

I watched her hands absorb the recoil, checking for a flinch on the trigger, then focused downrange to the target. With the exception of one flyer, the rounds were all in the “A” zone. Dead center.

“I thought you said you hadn’t shot anything before?”

Jennifer lowered the 1911 and said, “No. I said I don’t
own
any guns. There’s a difference. I grew up in rural Texas with two older brothers. Yeah, I’ve shot before.”

That didn’t explain the capability I’d just seen. Jerking a trigger and making noise against a stump because you’d been a redneck was a hell of a lot different than punching the A zone at a distance of twenty-five feet. Repeatedly.

I said, “Who taught you to shoot? Not your brothers, I’ll bet.”

“My grandfather on my mom’s side. He was a Texas Ranger. You know what that is?”

She said it with a little pride. The first I’d heard whenever she’d spoken about her family.

I said, “Yeah. I know what that is.”

“It’s not an Airborne Ranger, if that’s what you’re thinking. The Texas Rangers have been around a hell of a lot longer, and my granddad is a legend.”

I took the gun from her hand, racking the slide and saying, “Legend as in he’s done some stupid shit that made the news, or legend in that he deserves some respect?”

Her mouth dropped open and, a second too late, I wanted my words back. I saw the damage on her face and felt like kicking myself.
It was becoming a pattern between us—one that I was sure she wouldn’t tolerate for very long. I always forgot that she didn’t have the thick skin I did. Well, it was either that or I just said insulting things like I had Tourette’s.

I really didn’t want to. The words just came out.

I saw her mouth slam closed, her jaw muscles quivering, and said, “Whoa. Wait. Jennifer, I didn’t mean that the way you think . . .”

She started stalking to our car, the anger flowing out behind her in a vapor, and I understood exactly why. Her uncle—not the Texas Ranger, but still on her mother’s side—had traveled to Guatemala to find a lost Mayan temple. Following some incredibly stupid theory, he’d done it illegally, using some unintentional drug cartel help. I’d ended up getting roped into trying to rescue him, and he’d ended up getting killed by the cartels. The whole thing was a fiasco, with the exception of meeting Jennifer. In this case, my comment about the Ranger sounded like I was making fun of her dead uncle.

Watching her walk away, a part of me—cold and reptilian—could care less what she thought. That part was a sack of vipers, full of pride and arrogance. Something that would revel in me lying in a shallow grave, proud of proving I was the better man even as I strangled on the roots growing underneath the headstones.

Another part realized that what she thought about me was the difference between living and dying. And that little piece had held sway ever since I’d looked in a mirror in a Guatemalan hotel, not liking the septic shell of the man who had stared back.

Thank God.

I stared at the pistol, then the target, like either would help temper my asinine comment. I said, “Jennifer, wait . . .”

She ignored me.

I slapped in a fresh magazine, racked the slide, and ripped off seven rounds, punching the A zone around her strikes, my group infinitely smaller than hers. And fired infinitely faster, sounding like a slow-cycling automatic weapon. The noise caused her to jump and stop walking. I pointed at my rounds.

“That’s where you need to be. I’m impressed with your shooting. I really am, but you need to get better. Much, much better, if you want to pass A-and-S.”

She crossed her arms on her chest, staring at me without a word. I blinked first, glancing down from her gaze and fiddling with the Springfield 1911 in my hand. She said, “I’m not so sure I want to do that anyway. If it means working with jackasses like you.”

I whipped my head up at that comment, shocked it had come out of her mouth. Jennifer was the type of person who never said a cross word about anyone. Ever. Even when they deserved it. Waitress treat you like a mushroom? Probably because she’s preoccupied with her special needs child at home. Driver cut you off? Maybe because he’s rushing his pregnant wife to the hospital.

She’d snapped at me before, but had never called me names. The fact that she had now meant I’d finally crossed a line, entering a no-man’s land way, way south of the Friend Zone. The thought scared the hell out of me.

She had a tiny smirk on her face, and I felt the relief like a reserve parachute blossoming above my head. She had seen the fear, and that had been worth more than the apology. She said, “You know, it takes more than fancy shooting.”

I grinned and said, “What does?”

“Impressing me.”

I holstered the pistol and said, “Impressing you isn’t the issue. You need to impress the Taskforce, and that’s going to be a very tough thing to do.”

Once upon a time, I’d been a true-blue counterterrorist commando in an organization so secret it didn’t have an official name. A unit that made us all feel like we were barrel-chested freedom fighters, keeping America safe from the bad men stalking the earth. Most probably still felt that way.

I knew better.

I’d had a run-in with destiny, a horrific event involving my family, and it had crushed me. I had been well on my way to self-imposed suicide—death by cop or anyone else with a gun—when I’d crossed paths with Jennifer. She’d pulled me out of the abyss, scabbing over the loss of my wife and child without even meaning to. In return for that favor, I was trying to convince the command of my old unit to allow her to try out—without even telling her initially.

It was selfish of me. I understood that. I wanted back into the Taskforce embrace, but I didn’t want to lose Jennifer. We’d found the temple in Guatemala, and I’d convinced Jennifer to start a company with the proceeds. She could finish her degree in anthropology, and I could start kicking terrorist ass around the world with my new cover company. A dream world like the ending of the movie
True Lies.
Well, maybe not that good, but the company was pretty close.

Ostensibly designed to help anyone who wanted to conduct archaeological work around the world, we were a one-stop shop for old shit. We could schmooze host-country governments for the overall effort or provide security for an individual dig, all the while helping the United States preempt terrorist actions in denied areas. Perfect cover in my mind, but less than perfect in others—especially when Jennifer was brought into the mix.

Kurt Hale, the commander of the Taskforce, had tentatively agreed to allow us to start the company, and we even had a name—Grolier Recovery Services—but I had more in mind. I wanted to operate like I had in the past. And I wanted Jennifer to do the same, which was unorthodox, to say the least. After all, she was a civilian. And a female.

Jennifer walked back to the shooting line, sizing me up. Basically, shutting me down. She said, “I could give a flip what the Taskforce thinks about me. I am who I am. Take it or leave it.”

Here we go.

The Taskforce was a he-man, women-hating organization like no other. You hear about Wall Street in the ’80s or NFL football teams, but none held a candle to a bunch of operators who’d spent their lives in a Darwinian arena where getting to the top of a career field didn’t mean risking bankruptcy or free agency, but death. There was
no
comparison.

We were the perfect gentlemen with our families, but definitely Neanderthal in our perceptions of the fairer sex when it came to the job. Getting Jennifer into Assessment and Selection was a hurdle in and of itself. Getting her through it would be damn near impossible. I knew this because I would have been the first person who would have cut the legs out from underneath her.

Before she’d saved my life, that is.

I said, “Jennifer, I know I’m walking on thin ice, but please understand that nobody in my world wants you to succeed.
Nobody
. They hate the idea of you as an operator because of your gender alone. You need to be better than they were at A-and-S. Better than a man. Better than
me
.”

I handed her the pistol. She took it, shaking her head. She said, “There’s no way I can be better than you guys. I’ve seen you and Knuckles. You’ve had years of training. I can’t duplicate that in a few months. I don’t think I could ever reach that level.”

I said, “Yes. Yes, you can. I’m not training you as a door kicker. You have your own unique skills to contribute. You have a talent few possess. I’ve seen it.”

Fiddling with the Springfield, she looked up at that comment. “What talent?”

“I can’t explain it. Look, you’re right. You can’t be better than me or Knuckles on an operation, but A-and-S isn’t an operation. It’s a selection course. It’s full of false shit and skills tests. You can beat it. I
know
you can beat it. The course is designed to be about seventy percent mental and thirty percent skills. I can give you the skills, and you have the mental ability already. I
know
it. You make decisions that are correct. That’s more important than the physical side.”

She placed a magazine in the well, then racked the slide. She said, “Why do you care so much about what they think of me? Does their opinion alter yours?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer that. At the end of the day, Jennifer was a college student. A much older student than most, but a college student nonetheless. A life lived in an academic environment protected from the real tragedy that occurs on the world stage. Our little detour to Guatemala for her uncle had pulled her from her cloistered college world and plunged her into a hammer-jack of firefights and feral violence. She’d done very, very well, showing real skill. But even then, I would be lying if I said I didn’t trust the opinion of a group of men I’d been under fire with.

I punted, saying, “What they think only matters to get what I want. No more.”

She took a two-handed grip and sighted down the barrel, her hands and stance looking okay to the uninitiated, but woefully pathetic to me.

I said, “Stop. Here’s where we begin.”

And we started shooting for real.

BOOK: The Dig: A Taskforce Story
2.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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